5 Ways Nick Lidstrom's Return Helps the Detroit Red Wings
Red Wings fans, you can put the rabbits' feet away. The prayer beads helped. The chanting can stop---at least for one more year. Uncross your fingers.
Nick Lidstrom is coming back for another "kick at the can."
Lidstrom, 41, announced today in a conference call with GM Kenny Holland that retirement can wait. The skates won't be hung up for good—just for the summer.
“The reason for why it took so long was that I wanted to make sure I found the motivation, that I was ready to commit to the workouts over the summer to be ready for next season,” Lidstrom said in the conference call, according to a story in today's Detroit Free Press.
“I started working out a few weeks ago, just to make sure that I had the motivation and still have the commitment to do everything to get ready," the Red Wings captain added.
Lidstrom said that his strong 2010-11 season (he had 16 goals and 46 assists for 62 points, becoming the first defenseman past age 40 in NHL history to record that many points in a season) played a big role in his decision to come back.
Here are five reasons why all of Hockeytown is saying, "Hallelujah!!"
5. He's Been a Splendid Successor to Steve Yzerman as Team Captain
In 2008, Lidstrom became the first European captain to lead his team to the Stanley Cup.
But Nick shouldn't be considered a great captain, for a European—he should just be considered a great captain, period.
Taking over for Steve Yzerman after Yzerman captained the Red Wings for 22 years was no easy task. It was like a singer following Frank Sinatra on stage.
But Lidstrom made an almost seamless transition. Maybe it was because Nick, like Yzerman, is a quiet leader who speaks with his actions.
Regardless, the Red Wings are Lidstrom's team, no question. Just listen to his teammates speak of him—it's eerily like hearing how Yzerman's teammates spoke of no. 19.
Lidstrom is front and center with the media after wins and losses alike, and his amazing consistency on the ice speaks volumes.
With head coach Mike Babcock in the market for two new assistants, having someone like Lidstrom in the locker room is a comforting thing.
4. With Brian Rafalski Retired, the Red Wings Need Lidstrom Even More
Rafalski called it quits in May, after 10 seasons, the last few of which were spent battling nagging injuries—some serious ones, too.
That was a surprising loss, and had Lidstrom retired on top of that, the Red Wings would have been in deep doo-doo.
It's tough enough to replace one top-four blueliner. No fun at all to replace two of them.
Lidstrom returning allays Rafalski's loss, to a degree.
3. Lidstrom Is Still Near the Top of His Game
This isn't some guy who's just hanging on to pad his stats or to put off the inevitable (e.g. Chris Chelios toward the end).
Lidstrom is a finalist, yet again, for the Norris Trophy. He had those 62 points, and he played wonderfully in the playoffs this spring. In fact, he may have been the team's playoff MVP.
So the announcement of Lidstrom's coming back for the 2011-12 season is more than perfunctory—it's a very real way that the Red Wings can remain one of the Western Conference's elite teams.
Lidstrom is as deft; as brilliant with the stick as ever, and he hasn't gotten any less smart with age.
2. Who Wouldn't Want to Play with Nick Lidstrom?
Thanks to Rafalski's retirement, the Red Wings figure to have about $6 million to play with this summer in the pursuit of free agents. Some—if not all—of that obviously will go toward another top-four defenseman.
What better recruiting tool than to point to Nick Lidstrom and say, "How'd you like to play with HIM?"
The new defenseman doesn't HAVE to be paired with Lidstrom, but he could be, and whether he is or not, to be a part of a blue-line corps that has Lidstrom as its chairman of the board surely must be an attraction to potential free agents.
Part of Lidstrom's decision to come back was based on his belief that the Red Wings are still Cup worthy. You think the Red Wings won't have him whisper that into the ears of available defensemen the team is targeting?
Someone like Vancouver's Kevin Bieksa (pictured)?
1. It Gives the Next Team Captain One More Year to Get Ready
Lidstrom is likely finished after the 2011-12 season. At the very least, the possibility of his retirement will be as real next summer as it's ever been.
Who will be the next Red Wings captain?
Pavel Datsyuk? Henrik Zetterberg? Maybe a dark horse like Brad Stuart, Danny Cleary, or Darren Helm?
Whoever it is, that player will have one more year to ready himself, even if he doesn't know it.
Another NHL season under the belt; (presumably) another playoff run; another year's worth of production; another year to demonstrate leadership that's ready to take the baton.
Don't underestimate this aspect of Lidstrom's return.
Bottom line: WELCOME BACK, NICK!!
Now I can stop speaking in tongues.